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A man has been fined more than $19,000 by Waverley Local Court for seriously damaging a beautiful 15-metre tall native Australian street tree in Randwick.

The man admitted cutting the roots of the 50-year-old Brush Box while looking for the cause of a leaking water pipe. Randwick City Council was then forced to remove the dying tree for safety reasons.

Randwick Mayor Murray Matson said the fine sent a strong message about the importance of preserving street trees.

"The presiding judge on the case, Magistrate Milledge, described the actions of the person as disgraceful and I entirely agree.

"Trees not only beautify otherwise stark urban streets, but they offset carbon emissions, provide shade and attract native wildlife. Nobody has the right to damage or kill public trees and this court decision will make people think twice in the future.

"This tree, on Monmouth Street, formed part of a beautiful tree corridor and could have lived for another 40-50 years.

"I'm pleased to see the Local Court taking such a hardline stance against people who breach Tree Preservation Orders," Mayor Matson said.

Taking into account the defendant's guilty plea, Magistrate Milledge ordered the man to pay a total $19,079 including a $10,000 fine and court, compensatory and professional costs.

Randwick City Council has a set of rules to protect trees and preserve the integrity and character of the area.

People should seek advice from their local council before removing or pruning a tree - even if it's located on private property.

Download an application form to remove or prune a tree in the City of Randwick, or for more information phone 1300 722 542.

Published: 2 February 2011